We found ourselves on the couch a few nights ago talking about our favorite Christmas movies and thought this might actually be a really fun blog post. Little did we realize the inevitable sparks that would fly.
So here’s what we’re going to do. Elizabeth (EP) is going to share her TOP 5 and we’re going to have some commentary/discussion about each movie and it’ll also reveal what Doug (DP) would have put there and why. We’ll also throw in an honorable mention category.
Last but certainly not least, in the comment section, we’d LOVE if you tossed out your top 5.
Elizabeth’s #5: ELF
DP: It’s hard to believe Elf barely cracks into your list at all. We’re talking about a movie that is probably the most universally loved Christmas movie by both kids and adults in the last 20 years. It features Will Ferrell in his prime, before he becomes a caricature of himself. Peter Dinklage as the slightly-evil children’s book writer (“say elf just one more time!”) and Zooey Deschanel (looking good with blond hair) playing a far less annoying version of her type-cast character “being quirky with Zooey Deschanel.” She manages to have the perfect amount of dry humor and sarcasm.
It has more quotables than you can shake a stick at and did I mention that kids love it? THEY LOVE IT. It means a shared movie experience that everyone gets to enjoy. That means a happy momma and papa.
I just can’t believe this is #5 for you. How much Christmas-icing aerosol have you been sniffing?!
EP: I think your level of offense at my Elf-ranking is wackadoo. My offense-level is only matched by Zooey Deschanel’s blonde hair. Seriously dude, that hair was a mistake. I only find it forgivable because she was married to Ben Gibbard, increasing the coolness of everything about her during that era by a factor of ten. She should have kept that relationship together. She’d need those cool points for the season three opener of New Girl (Roadtrip to Mexico? Oy).
Here’s my reason for ranking it #5: the santa / elf schtick isn’t my thing and the other 4 are better. Also you gave me three minutes for this exercise. A little more time and I may have ranked it higher.
DP: I gave myself the exact same amount of time. Come on. You’re a smart lady, you’ve got better ammunition than that!
My #5 is Love Actually.
I feel like I do lose more than a little man-credit for this one, but I don’t care. I’ll shout it from the rooftops: Christmas doesn’t start in the Paul household until we watch Love Actually. I love the music, most of the characters (Laura Linney’s character drives me bananas and the kid/Liam Niesam storyline is boring) and what’s not to love about the washed up Bill Nighy rockstar Billy Mack? It’s basically Bill Nighy playing Bill Nighy. He’s Yule-tide fantastic.
Elizabeth’s #4: A Christmas Story
DP: For me, A Christmas Story is like The Goonies: If you didn’t see it when you were a kid, you aren’t going to like it. In fact…you’re going to hate it. Asking which movie I like more, A Christmas Story or The Goonies is like asking me which way I want to die, by finally drowning me after 2 years of waterboarding or slowly bleeding to death after my fingernails and toenails have all been pulled out. Neither is a good option.
A Christmas Story is a legitimately awful movie. It’s terrible. But for some reason, the oldest Millenials (those born after 1980) all saw this nostalgic movie and fell in love. In the same way that they have ironic mustaches today and wear papa smurf t-shirts. Their love of irony started in the late 80’s…they just didn’t know it yet.
If you didn’t see this movie when you were a kid, you don’t like it. I stand by that.
EP: Who knew this blog post was going to be like therapy for the fact that you missed the 80s in your churchy-culture-bubble? Don’t hate the movie because your experience of the 80s were deferred until 1999. It’s not Ralphie’s fault!
Many people hate A Christmas Story because TBS insists on playing it for 24 hours straight every Christmas. Also not Ralphie’s fault. But the image of that poor kid in a bunny costume… of his little brother so overly bundled that he falls on the ground and can’t move his leg? Hilarious. And insanely insightful. You need to give it another try.
What’s your #4?
DP: My #4 Christmas movie is more a category than a specific movie. Every year there are movies that come out that don’t have a lot to do with Christmas, but either REMIND us of Christmas or feel like we can only truly enjoy them around Christmas time because they CAME OUT around Christmas.
For me, the #4 slot belongs to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Harry Potter series and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. None of these are about Christmas, per se, but either by theme (epic story we find ourselves in) or by oblique reference (almost every Harry Potter has a Christmas scene in it and half of them came out around Christmas) makes the experience of watching them heightened around Christmas time.
EP: Boo. That’s a total cheat. If we can pick movies that just came OUT around Christmas (or perhaps movies that have an errant tree hanging in the background) then I’d like to throw out Little Womenand About a Boy. Hashtag-Boom. I’ll give you Lion, Witch & The Wardrobe — because Father Christmas makes an appearance. And because it’s one of my favs. A little jealous I didn’t think of it myself.
Elizabeth’s #3: It’s a Wonderful Life
EP: I think it’s amazing that this movie came out in 1946. But beyond this…every year I watch this movie and when it starts, I think, “this is gonna be a good night. Everyone needs a little nostalgia at Christmas time.” But by the end of it and we’ve whipped around Bedford Falls and Potterville and tears have streaked my face, all I can think is, “Nope, not nostalgia. Truly a great movie.”
DP: I’ll get to thoughts on It’s a Wonderful Life a little later, so I’ll jump straight to my #3: ELF. And it nearly makes it to #2. But my #2 and #3 are somewhat similar (iconic Christmas movies that defined a generation, kids and parents both love them now and will 20 years from now, they never lose their magic despite aging). For me, while I just love Elf, some parts of it are a little slow and I think it’s got a more limited audience for who it’s iconic for.
Elizabeth’s #2: A Charlie Brown Christmas
DP: There’s little to respond to, right? This isn’t a movie! IMDB.com clocks this movie in at 25 minutes. Twenty-five minutes! I’ve had showers longer than that. Most Friends episodes are longer than this. It’s like me saying, “Hey Elizabeth, what’s your favorite vegetable?” and you say, “Steak.” It’s a category buster. It just doesn’t work.
Don’t get me wrong. I love every second of those 25 minutes.
But it’s not a movie.
Not. A. Movie.
EP: Doug, first of all, ALL your showers are longer than 25 minutes. All. Of. Them. If we were judging film status by the length of your showers then Gone With the Wind wouldn’t qualify (at just under 4 hours). It was 1965 and they were hand-illustrating those frames. 25 minutes was a feat. Don’t hate.
Second, the music is incredible. Iconic. All of it. From Schroeder’s theme on the piano to “Christmas time is here” in soprano tones. Brings to life snowflakes falling on an animated ice skating rink…even sitting in south Florida…magic.
It challenges consumerism (always a good thing) and when Charlie Brown laments, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!” and Linus responds, “Sure Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights, please…” I tear up every time. Every. Single. Time.
Lastly, it includes Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth right out of the bible. How cool is that?
DP: I’d like to respond, if I may. People…she exaggerates about the showers. By at least a minute or two. Second, I‘m not going to disagree about any of what you wrote in terms of enjoyment, meaning, etc. But if I knew we could put non-movies into the movie category, I would have put The West Wing’s Holy Night episode in. Classic episode with Toby’s dad, great song selection by Aaron Soorkin, the Whiffenpoofs and CJ being CJ. Point being…it’s a TV episode, not a movie. And don’t give me this lame “they were hand-illustrating each frame” line. Mr. Walt Disney was doing that too and it didn’t stop him from doing full-length movies!
My #2 is not just an iconic Christmas movie, it contains one of the most iconic movie moments of all time: I am of course referring toHome Alone and the after-shave scene. Complete classic.
In many ways, there are two types of GREAT Christmas movies: Funny ones and serious ones (but it can’t be too serious, mind you). The funniest ones always tap into not only the magic of Christmas, but what it’s like to be a kid at Christmas…regardless of whether you’re a kid or an adult.
Home Alone is the best EVER at the funny/kid/magical Christmas genre. The music is perfect. Macaulay Culkin is perfect. The villains are perfect. The suburbs of Chicago are perfect. The boobie-trap nightmare is perfect. It just doesn’t get any better than this.
EP: I saw this movie WAY too many times as a kid. Home Aloneburnout. Plus Macaulay Culkin slapping his hands to the side of his face annoys me. Actually, everything Macaulay Culkin does annoys me. He ruins the film for me. Him and the bad guys. Bad acting. And what mom in the world leaves their youngest child at home? It’s totally unfeasible!
In fact, I can think of lots of reasons why the movie just isn’t that great. Seriously that’s your #2?
Elizabeth’s #1: Love Actually
EP: I can seriously recite it front to back. I’m not sure the twin towers reference was all that necessary… and I could live without the visuals on the naked body double couple, but those aside, the movie is flawless.
It’s genre defining! There have been half a dozen wannabe holiday movies weaving together lots of storylines to all around happiness (and none of them can hold a candle to L.A.). The casting is perfect — it’s like a monument to English acting… Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Kiera Knightly — even Andrew Lincoln before his Walking Dead days and Chiwetel Ejiofor before 12 Years a Slave. Proving that tiny island has more acting talent than any other place in the world. It’s amazing.
And it’s so quotable! “Hiya kids. Here’s an important message from your Uncle Bill. Don’t buy drugs… become a pop star and they give them to you for free!” It makes you want to stand up and cheer (not that quote, but you get what I’m talking about), dance around in celebration, laugh, cry and all around celebrate. Love is all around.Amazing.
It’s not just my favorite Christmas movie, it’s in my top 5 all time favorite movies.
DP: I don’t know what to say. I mean…we should at least take solace that we both have it on our list, right? But #1? #-freaking-1 !?!?!?!!!! You have got to be kidding me.
I’ll give this to you: When you wrote out all of the English actors in it, you really do realize it’s got most of English acting royalty in it. The only people it’s missing are Dame Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Pretty impressive.
At the end of the day, Love Actually at least makes my list, but for reasons I don’t quite understand. Maybe it’s because that movie is one of ‘our’ (you and I’s) Christmas movies together. But it doesn’t really fit into either category of GREAT for Christmas movies. It’s not a funny/iconic/kid movie that parents love and it’s not a classic serious-but-not-too-serious Christmas movie. It’s an aberration.
EP: You’re entirely too hemmed in by your own boundaries. Don’t let your rigidly defined Christmas boxes keep you from the magic!
DP: You could say there’s a third category that’s more ‘adult-humor Christmas movies’, but I’d say while those can be good (Bad Santabeing an example of this, though it’s definitely on the wrong side of too far), you wouldn’t describe these as great Christmas movies.
Though if it makes it into your top 5 movies EVER, I can see why it’s your #1. The larger discussion, then, is your Top 5 Favorite movies and why Love Actually is in it!?!
EP: Fine, Mr. Smarty Pants. What’s your #1?
DP: At the end of the day, I’m committed to those two movie categories. My #2 was the funny/iconic/kid movie that parents love. My #1? The serious-but-not-too-serious classc Christmas movie: It’s a Wonderful Life.
We watched this every Christmas Eve growing up as a kid and I will continue to watch it every year on Christmas Eve until the day I die. I watch it exactly once a year. On Christmas Eve.
And in my mind, this is the greatest of Frank Capra’s movies. The unyielding optimism that still has reality painted on the edges. We all love George Bailey, but mid way through the movie, he’s become someone who we also don’t like any more. He’s incapable of seeing how rich and good and full his life is. Fortunately, there’s Clarence the angel.
The movie is true and funny and captivating and reminds us so much of the very best things of the Christmas season: A God who loved us and the family who represent him.
I pretty much can’t watch this movie without crying (but not too much…I feel like there’s a ratio of cry-to-laugh in these kinds of movies that’s a real delicate balance).
Elizabeth? Anything you want to say in closing before we jump to an honorable mention?
EP: The late great Dr. King said that we have more in common than we have in difference. And this is true for us. With 3 of the 5 films on our list overlapping, there’s a lot to celebrate, right? This means we’re either exceptionally well matched and suited for each other, or that there aren’t a lot of great Christmas movies out there. I’ll let you be the judge.
Doug: Original Rudolf Claymation
Elizabeth: Ben and Eddie’s Handpuppet Christmas (you can’t make this stuff up)
HOW ABOUT YOU? WHAT MAKES YOUR TOP 5?